Guest Author - James Shea
The second downloadable content pack for "Total War: SHOGUN 2", Fall of the Samurai deals, naturally, with the end of the samurai era and the beginnings of modern Japan.
Fall of the Samurai takes place during the Boshin War of 1868. Unlike the Sengoku period of the default game, which was about warlords seeking their own power, the Boshin war is a dedicated "civil war" between those who support the Shogun and those who support the Emperor. The Imperial side is traditionalist, supporting a return to the old ways and the isolation of Japan. The Shogun's side is modernist, favoring greater trade with the outside world. While each side is made up of multiple areas and factions, the two greater sides are very concrete and meaningful in the game.
Like the standard game and the Rise of the Samurai DLC, "Fall of the Samurai" has its own aesthetics and gameplay dynamics that are largely independent from other versions of the game. One of the most noticeable struggles in the game's campaign mode is between modernity and tradition. Upgrading your technology can give you advantages - guns, artillery, industry - but doing so undermines Japanese history and culture. Remaining traditional presents advantages in the form of better morale and training for "classical" units like armored samurai. Traditional units are weaker at range, but if they can close into melee distance they vastly overpower unarmored riflemen. The balance between "modern" and "traditional" is established pretty well in the game's combat system. The broken, hilly terrain of Shogun 2's battle-maps means that modern forces won't automatically have an advantage, but if they can catch traditional armies in the open their range can make or break an entire battle.
While many of the campaign's elements are similar to Shogun 2's previous incarnations, there's enough new twists and turns to keep things interesting. The "civil war" dynamic is totally different from the "every warlord for himself" of the Sengoku period or the "spread your family's influence" of Rise of the Samurai. The split between modern and traditional defines most of Fall of the Samurai's gameplay, with foreign powers and trading becoming a major issue later on. Sea battles are more important now, as fleets can provide supporting fire for land-based battles or bombard cities. In some senses the classic "build structures in towns, move armies around maps" gameplay feels kind of dated and "gamey", but the battles themselves work great.
The aesthetic for Fall of the Samurai is based around maps of the period, using a more grey-toned style compared to the highly colorful styles of Shogun 2 and Rise of the Samurai. I've heard mixed opinions about this, but personally I don't like it at all. The 3d models still look great, but the campaign map is just very drab and dull-looking (intentionally so, but ugly is ugly). Overall, the game is definitely distinct as its own concept - a concept whose execution could have been done better, but a distinct and novel concept nonetheless.
Buy Shogun 2 - Fall of the Samurai from Amazon.com
Purchased through Steam with our own funds.